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Plump Up Thin Lips With These Expert-Approved Tips to Applying Lipstick

Photo by Erin Yamagata/Refinery29 for Getty Images/Getty Images

With celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Bella Hadid setting the standards for Western beauty, it’s unsurprising someone may feel insecure about thin lips. Whether it’s these A-list celebrities, or the rise of Restylane and other filler usage all over social media, large, luscious, full lips are inescapable in the mainstream—and lipstick application for thin lips or small lips might initially come off challenging.

With the right products and techniques, you’ll be applying lipstick to your thin lips like a pro. Need proof? Have you seen the famous thin-lipped TikToker who has two million likes for her skilled lip makeup tutorial? Whether you’re in front of a screen or not, you can use the expert step-by-step makeup tips below to score the pout of your dreams!

About the Experts:

Robin Black is a celebrity makeup artist and photographer who founded the content creation platform Beauty Is Boring.
Natalie Dresher is a Miami-based celebrity makeup artist.

Lipstick Application for Thin Lips in 6 Easy Steps

1. Exfoliate Your (Lip) Skin

Much like skincare prep for foundation, you’ll want to prep the lips for lipstick. “Start with a good exfoliation of your lips and the surrounding skin,” makeup artist Robin Black tells IPSY. If you want something effective with a little extra oomph, we love the deliciously scented NAKED COSMETICS Lip Scrub in Vanilla Creme. You can even apply it to an old toothbrush and scrub directly onto your lips, wiping it off after a few minutes with a wet washcloth.

2. Apply a Lip Mask or Hydrating Lip Balm

You can’t expect lipstick to glide effortlessly onto chapped or dry lips, so you’ve got to make sure they’re covered with a moisturizing formula. “I’m a fan of plumping options for thinner lips,” says Black, adding that she’s a huge fan of LAWLESS Forget the Filler Lip Plumping Line Smoothing Gloss. “I also love a hydrating lip balm (she goes wild for the uber-luxurious SISLEY PARIS Nutritive Lip Balm). Allow it time to absorb, then blot with a lint-free tissue before applying color. If you have any remaining flakes of dry skin, pat lightly with a piece of scotch tape to gently remove them.”

3. Line Your Lips

Before you get into the liner, you’ll need to determine the lipstick. “Start by selecting a lip liner that closely matches the shade of your lipstick,” Black advises. “Using small, quick strokes, fill in the entire lip, connect the outer corners and build the shape in the peaks of the cupid's bow.”

When it comes to formula for thinner lips, makeup artist Natalie Dresher opts for liners with creamy consistencies. “Creamier liners allow me to draw out a fuller shape easily without dragging the skin,” she says, adding that the TARTE Maracuja Lip Liner in Deep Mauve is a foolproof neutral.

4. Dramatize Your Pout

Once you’ve got the basics down, you can embellish the illusion of fuller lips. “To add volume to your lips without them looking unnatural, overline just the center of the cupid's bow on the top lip, along with the center of the lower lips,” Black suggests. “Going slightly over your natural lip line in the center of your lips instantly adds volume. Once you have your whole lip filled in, press your lips together—don’t rub!—to smooth out any texture. Now you should have a very even lip shape and color as your starting canvas.”

5. Fill Empty Space With Lipstick

With the other steps behind you, you’re now set up for success with the lipstick shade of your choice. “Apply a light coat of lipstick directly over the lip liner, paying special attention to the edges of your lips,” Black says. “Make sure to perfect the edges and corners during this step. If you’re using a satin or creamy formula, blot lightly with a lint-free tissue or press your lips together to smooth it out (not needed with liquid lipstick or matte formulas). Then apply a second coat of the same lipstick over the lips, concentrating the color in the center and avoiding the outer edges.”

When it comes to Dresher’s lipstick color of choice, she opts for a few shades lighter than the lip liner. “This creates a subtle ombré effect, faking a full pillowy lip,” she says, adding that she typically reaches for a MAC satin lipstick. 

When it comes to satin, nude shades, we’re big on the KULFI BEAUTY Heirloom Satin Lipstick in Ghazal Glow, thanks to its muted pink, neutral hue. We also love that it’s flattering on the majority of natural lip colors. But if you’re looking for more of a pop, you can’t go wrong with classic red lips, a la the ANASTASIA BEVERLY HILLS Satin Lipstick in Cherry.

6. Swipe on Some Lip Gloss

If gloss isn’t among your collection of makeup products, no need to worry. Consider it an added bonus. “This step is optional, but it's a great trick to create the appearance of more volume,” Black says. “Dab a small amount of clear or shimmering gloss right in the center of your bottom lip. Lightly press your lips together to blend it.”   

Dresher stands by the optional final step, adding that it offers up the ultimate “statement” makeup look. And our pick, of course, is none other than the rich, decadent PAT MCGRATH LABS Lust: Gloss thanks to its shiny, plum-rose pigment.

Want in on all the IPSY glam bag fun? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started with your own IPSY beauty subscription—and stock up on lip products and so much more. Already an IPSY member? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and TikTok @IPSY.

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About the author
Dahvi Shira
Dahvi Shira
Dahvi Shira is a Los Angeles-based beauty writer, who has a passion for hair, makeup, and skincare. She contributes regularly to Mane Addicts and her blog, Skyelyfe. Her work has also appeared on Glossy, People, E!, Sweety High and more.
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Article Last Updated October 20, 2023 12:00 AM